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Review: Roku #4

Roku #4

Roku faces her sharpest enemy ever, the Minister of Blades, in the epic final battle in Roku #4! Who lives? Who dies? Find out here!

If you’ve read the previous three issues of Roku then you’ll know roughly what to expect. While not a bad book, Roku #4 isn’t going to convince anybody to read the series. But, it does wrap the story up nicely.

Cullen Bunn has set up a confrontation between frenemies Roku and Ember-1 with a host of assassins over the fate of the human information depository/internet Marybeth. There’s time and space for both Roku and Ember-1 to shine in their own bloody way during the scrap. Whether it’s the strangely deadly hair of the titular character or Ember-1’s more traditional fighting skills, they each bring something different to the comic. It’s a confrontation brought to life by Ramon F. Bachs and colorist Stephane Paitreau.

The art is solid and, although it won’t make or break the book, it’s clean in the way you want action to be. You can follow every knife thrust, slash and cut with ease. There were moments where I had to look twice as my eyes made sense of the character’s actions from one panel to the next, but nothing game breaking.

At this point, nothing I can say about this comic is going to make you want to read the series. I’ve enjoyed every issue myself, but I’m not going to claim that it’s a book for everybody. Roku is an interesting antagonist for one of the publisher’s more well-known characters. This book hasn’t really done a lot to make this a must-read for any but the most dedicated of Valiant fans. Those looking to read an action story about a strong female lead with a little depth will enjoy it too. You don’t need any prior knowledge which makes this a great introduction, but less so other established characters.

When it comes down to brass tacks, Roku hasn’t been a groundbreaking series. It has been somewhat predictable and hasn’t done much beyond setting up Roku for the future. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it; the introduction of Ember-1, the Minister of Blades and Marybeth and their journey across Europe was a fun read. Is it essential reading? No; but skipping it will deprive you of a solid four issue story.

Story: Cullen Bunn Art: Ramon F. Bachs
Colors: Stephane Paitreau Letters: Dace Sharpe

Story: 7.5 Art: 8.0 Overall: 7.8 Recommendation: Read

Valiant provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Roku #3

Roku #3

The lethal assassin Roku is reeling from a brutal defeat, but an even bigger fight awaits in Roku #3.

It’s round 2 between Roku and the superspy Ember-1!

Before starting this series, Cullen Bunn had just finished up a miniseries featuring Valiant’s Punk Mambo. It followed her adventures through the world of life, death and voodoo mysticism. That series was remarkable in the way you were able to connect to the character. Her journey across the miniseries made for a compelling tale.

Somewhere along the line, though, he lost the magic touch (pun intended) with Roku. The series has struggled to reach the same levels as Bunn’s previous Valiant work; there’s less meat on the bone with Roku than there was Punk Mambo, but then Nanbo is much less of a blank slate than Roku.

Unfortunately, for those who have watched the first couple episodes of The Mandalorian on Disney +, then you’re going to get a familiar sense about this book – a mercenary contracted for a job finds themselves a little more invested than they expected. If you’ve seen the Beskar armored warrior on your television or phone screen then you’ll have seen the best version of that story across any media.

It’s not that this is a bad book; much like one of Valiant’s other offerings released today, Bloodshot #4, it’s another action book set on a train featuring a character who should be a kick-ass lead, but because the settings are similar then comparisons will be drawn, and Roku doesn’t quite measure up. Which is a shame because there’s a great story here that’s struggling to see the light of day.

Bunn is joined by artist Ramon F. Bachs and colorist Stephane Paitreau, who add a distinct flair to the proceedings with their work; scenes on the train feel enclosed and confined before bursting across the page as the action unfolds from panel to panel as Roku and her incredible hair tear across the page trying to achieve her objective regardless of what’s in her way.

While not a bad book, Roku #3 isn’t up to the quality of some of Bunn’s earlier work. It’s still a fun read, but the trouble with focusing a book on a villain, even one as popular within the Valiant fandom (specifically Ninjak fans) as Roku is that somewhere along the lines you’ve got to find an antagonist who is somehow worse than her. Bunn hasn’t quite found that antagonist just yet.

At the end of the day, this book won’t convince you to pick up the series if you haven’t already, but it won’t feel like a waste of your money, either. Contrary to how it sounds, I did enjoy it – but not as much as other books I’ve read this week.

Story: Cullen Bunn Art: Ramon F. Bachs
Colors: Stephane Paitreau Letters: Dace Sharpe

Story: 7.8 Art: 8.2 Overall: 8.1 Recommendation: Buy

Valiant provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Roku #2

Roku #2

In order to save a life, the lethal weapon Roku is going to have to kill a lot of people. Plus, the first appearance of the Minister of Blades! All in Roku #2!

Comics featuring a villain as a protagonist can often be a dicey proposition. If the character isn’t in some way sympathetic it can be hard for the audience to find a connection. Roku is the exception to that rule. I say rule, but really it’s just a personal observation. She’s far from a sympathetic character in terms of her motivations, despite her tragic history. That’s revealed to some extent this issue through dialogue and the character’s internal monologue.

The first cliche of the book is that despite Roku being an unscrupulous assassin villain, she seems to be willing to do “the right thing”. Though arguably not for the best of reasons. It’s at this point that we find ourselves rooting for the character. While it may seem familiar to some, Cullen Bunn frames the story and the character in such a way that you’ll never complain that the story has that familiar sense about it.

The book showcases Roku’s skills, as well as the oddly creepy hair powers she has as she cuts through her enemies like cheese wire through a block of cheddar. Her hair powers are one of my favorite things about the character. Though I have to admit at finding it a little creepy at the same time. It’s both an interesting ability for a character and one that still has the ability to take me off guard. It isn’t often you see a character who can use her hair as a weapon.

Bunn’s story seems pretty straightforward, though one can start to see the subtle complexities being teased out to us.

Bunn is joined by artist Ramon F. Bachs and colorist Stephane Paitreau, whose style is clean with enough flare to provide an interesting look to the book. You can tell exactly what’s happening on each page even though there’s frequently some form of swift and brutal encounter between Roku and somebody else.

Roku #2 takes the series firmly into New-Reader-Friendly territory, with the focal point of the story being Roku’s mission rather than the character herself and a deep dive into her past. While her mysterious past is brought up enough to familiarize the unfamiliar, it hasn’t been anything more than characters alluding to what has gone before in a way that doesn’t break the story if you’ve no idea what happened.

At the end of the day, this book is still a fun read. There’s a bit more to unpack for fans of Roku or readers of Ninjak, but either way, there’s more than enough here to pull you back for the third issue.

Story: Cullen Bunn Art: Ramon F. Bachs
Colors: Stephane Paitreau Letters: Dace Sharpe

Story: 8.6 Art: 8.2 Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy

Valiant provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Roku #1

Roku #1

How many lives must the lethal assassin Roku take in her first series? Roku #1 begins a journey to find out!

Killing her way around the globe, the deadly weapon called Roku will face a challenge she can’t simply execute.

Being bad has never been so fun.

There has always been something fun about reading a comic about the bad guy. Roku is another character to come from Ninjak, following on the heels of the spectacular Killers series. Roku features a mercenary assassin with a tragic past. Don’t all great characters have tragic pasts, really? And the first issue delivers a fast pace as she completes a couple of missions within the comic.

Perhaps one of my favourite things about the character is that she can use her hair as a weapon. She’s able to control it and then use it to slice and dice her opponents. That gives the artists some excellent chances to flex their muscles and get creative with her free-flowing locks of red hair. Think Carnage’s symbiote tendrils.

Writer Cullen Bunn’s story in this book seems pretty straightforward. Through his narration and the dialogue Bunn’s able to give readers unfamiliar with the character enough context that they understand who she is and her motivations. It serves as a great ground zero for those familiar with the character get refreshed and see where Bunn’s take begins.

The primary job of any first issue is to pull the reader back for more. With Roku #1 Cullen Bunn, artist Ramon F. Bachs and colorist Stephane Paitreau do just enough to entice me back for the second issue, although there seems to be something lacking from the comic. There was magic (pun intended) about Bunn’s first issue of Punk Mambo, a series he recently wrapped up for Valiant as well, that just isn’t repeated here.

Now comparing the two characters isn’t exactly an apples to apples view point; they’re both different characters, and one has had a lot more time in the limelight recently than the other (and my own personal bias toward Punk Mambo isn’t helping here either). That said, I’m confident that by the end of this book I’m going to want to read a lot more about Roku – whether I love the character, or love to hate her.

Ultimately a fun book, and one that Valiant fans should pick up. Whether it’ll attract new readers remains to be seen.

Story: Cullen Bunn Art: Ramon F. Bachs
Colors: Stephane Paitreau Letters: Dace Sharpe

Story: 8.6 Art: 8.2 Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy

Valiant provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review